Here it is; the $64,000 question:
“Mr. Chatmon, did you enjoy your time as executive director of the L.A. Black Book Expo?”
There is no one answer, right or wrong on this subject. I will say that my first year was probably the best. I enjoyed holding it at the Expo Center which to me was the perfect place to hold it. After that year, that’s when it became a challenge. If you reader, seen my comments on #LABBX before, rest assured I do not regret my decision of assuming control of the Expo from the late, great Dr. Itibari M. Zulu who passed away last year. He sent an email to me in 2006 after the LABBX for that year was cancelled. He accepted a job out of state and because of my work with the California Writers Collective, I accepted his request and began right to work on the event.
If one were to ask me what did #LABBX do to my writing career? I will have to say it suffered a setback. Truth be told, #LABBX basically steered me away from writing more books at that time. The Voices of South Central was already in its third year plus I have attended all of the local literary events I could, but felt #LABBX was needed to help promote my fellow authors in L.A. There weren’t too many literary festivals outside the Black Writers Festival at the Howard Hughes Center and the Black Writers on Tour. As far as my creativity in writing more books, I feel now #LABBX took me away from my primary goal of becoming a writer/author. I should have stuck with my dream and just said, “Thanks, but not interested.” If I had done that, I don’t know how much farther along I would be in my writing career right now. Perhaps I may have published another book or two.
Like I said I don’t regret my time as #LABBX executive director at all. I have met lots of interesting authors who are actresses, businesswomen, entrepreneurs, fellow visionaries, and just plain writing for the joy of selling a book and selling it. It was the sales part at the expo that often caused the most trouble (smile). I am a writer. I love it, enjoyed this ‘hobby’ since elementary school and with all my shortcomings, I love this literary artistry the most. I look back at this now and wonder what I would have done differently. What should I have said, what could I have done to make #LABBX a positive experience for everybody? Maybe I shouldn’t have listened to too many people who offered suggestions on the venue, how to increase the size of the crowd, what programs to add. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that and just kept it simple as when Dr. Zulu ran his portions of #LABBX. Perhaps I was too ambitious, maybe I wasn’t ambitious enough.
I know to this day I will be criticized, praised, however folks who were past exhibitors, attendees, or associates feel about their time at #LABBX. It doesn’t really matter anymore. I don’t plan on running another literary event, ever. The growth of digital platforms and our changing city of Los Angeles are taking care of that. It’s becoming a city now where someone who looks like me isn’t welcome. So that’s it. I guess in the final analysis, my answer now might be, I enjoyed my time at #LABBX. I can’t regret that. I only regret that it took away my momentum on the writing I was involved with. I’m glad Itibari chose me, definitely glad. I just wish it wasn’t at the cost of my writing career.
Charles L. Chatmon
Former Executive Director
Los Angeles Black Book Expo